Happy Sunday morning, folks! The fabulous and talented Joan Opyr dropped a little guest blog on us this morning.
Safe and Secure
by Joan Opyr
My grandmother is ninety-one. She still lives on her own, she still drives, and she has 20/20 vision. She can read the newspaper without reading glasses. She has had her struggles — she was raised during the Great Depression, she was a young woman during World War II, she’s been tossed and turned by every American social movement from Civil Rights to Women’s Liberation to gay marriage — and yet, in many ways, she has led a charmed life. The Nazis did not invade. Her home has not been burgled. Her parents lived to see her into adulthood, married and with a child. But my grandmother is afraid. Whenever she goes out, whether it’s night time or broad daylight, whether she’s out for five minutes or five hours, she always — always — searches in the closets and under the beds when she gets home.
My mother jokes that if my grandmother finds a man under the bed, she’ll call the police in the morning. We have all asked her, time and again, what she thinks she can do at ninety-one. Does she have a superpower we don’t know about? She can barely operate her cell phone, much less a Taser. I’ve only heard her scream once, and that was long ago, when she nearly stepped on a snake. As I recall, it was a mild shriek, swallowed by that initial gasp of fear. It wasn’t loud. The neighbors stayed indoors.
So why keep looking under the bed for something that isn’t there? Something is never likely to be there? Why let fear rule that much of your life? After 9/11, we were told that if we gave up a few unimportant civil rights, we would gain security. If we didn’t make a fuss about warrantless wiretapping and the FBI checking our library records, we would never again feel the fear and uncertainty we felt in those first few days and weeks after the attack. Later, security was the excuse used to justify the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan.
I felt safer when I knew Osama bin Laden was dead. I admit that freely. I can also say without shame that I celebrated. Crime. Punishment. That seems a straightforward equation for me. What is not straightforward is this country’s ongoing, media-fueled, irrational fear of all Muslims. What happened this week in Boston was a tragedy, and the young men who perpetrated this crime were wicked and warped. They were also Americans. Chechen ethnicity — American citizenship. We don’t yet know what motivated them. It might have nothing to do with politics and everything to do with the culture of violence we seem to foster in the United States. They might have nothing to do with Osama bin Laden and everything to do with Jared Loughner, James Holmes, and Sueng-Hui Cho. We don’t know, but we want to be safe, and so we keep looking under the bed. We keep checking in the closet. Just like my grandmother, with no plan whatsoever for dealing with anything we might find there.